The National University of Singapore chooses Mattermost for student-faculty collaboration

National University of Singapore

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s largest institute of higher learning, both in terms of enrollment and breadth of courses offered. The school—which specializes in research, medicine, science, engineering, computing and more—is one of the highest ranked universities in the world.

The university serves roughly 29,000 undergraduate students and 10,000 graduate students. NUS employs more than 5,000 academics, including nearly 2,200 faculty members. To fulfill its mission of delivering a superior educational experience to tens of thousands of students and faculty, the National University of Singapore needed a modern messaging system that enables students and professors to collaborate in a secure manner. Not only would such a system enhance the educational experience, it would also help attract talented students to the school and enable them to build stronger relationships with their peers.

After doing its due diligence and testing several popular solutions, the university ultimately deployed Mattermost, the open source messaging system, because it met the school’s security, scalability, and usability requirements.

Challenge

NUS aims to remain one of the world’s leading universities, helping transform the way future generations think and work through education and research. To do this, NUS needs to do everything within its power to support education and stay on the cutting edge of technology.

Recently, NUS determined that supporting collaboration and peer learning were some of its key priorities. To this end, the university began searching for a mobile-friendly messaging platform that students and faculty members alike could use to message peers and students, share files, and chat with classmates.

NUS decided that the right solution would be cost-effective and scalable. It would also have open APIs so that the platform could integrate with the university’s learning management system.

The university was initially using Facebook for these purposes. But the social media platform fell short for a number of reasons.

“We wanted to keep the academic part separate from the personal stuff,” explains Uday Satyamohan Athreya, a senior systems engineer at NUS. “There were also security issues: We didn’t want students sharing their personal information with classmates they might only meet for one semester.”

Next, NUS tried Jabber, but they ran into several issues. It was hard to maintain. It wasn’t scalable—”only 50 people could chat simultaneously”—and it wasn’t flexible, so they couldn’t use video conferencing.

After realizing Facebook and Jabber couldn’t support their requirements, NUS determined a new messaging solution was needed. Otherwise, students would end up using a variety of different messaging platforms, making it harder to collaborate and more difficult for systems admins to control.

NUS continued its search for a new solution. They came across Slack, which was too expensive, and Hipchat, which couldn’t scale to support the needs of their robust academic community.

In addition to cost-effectiveness and scalability, the school needed a solution that they could host because they “can’t share student details with third-party vendors.”

Solution

After researching other options, NUS ultimately found Mattermost, a highly secure, open source messaging platform that can be hosted in a private cloud. The team at NUS scheduled a demo with Mattermost, liked what they saw and deployed the solution right away.

“Mattermost was fast to roll out. We took about a week to download and install Mattermost and a few days to configure LDAP and other customization settings.”

Results

Thanks to the platform’s intuitive design, students and staff members were able to use Mattermost immediately to form research teams, discuss projects, and create professional development communities.

“The first thing that impressed us most was how easy the server was to install and to maintain. We got users onboarded really quickly. There weren’t any issues with people signing up or logging in or anything like that.”

The university enjoys two popular use cases for Mattermost:

  • Digital classroom. Lecturers use Mattermost to facilitate asynchronous discussions with their classes, creating collaborative spaces where students can talk with their peers and professors and track down relevant files, studies and other announcements. Some classes don’t meet in-person often; Mattermost has helped improve the quality of learning in these instances, as professors and students can develop digital relationships that are helpful when they ultimately do meet face-to-face.
  • Personal interest. Students have used Mattermost to create learning communities that support their personal interests. These communities connect like-minded individuals who have a desire to learn about similar topics.

Mattermost’s flexibility provides another key benefit to the university: the ability to invite people who aren’t part of the NUS community to collaborate on the platform.

“One of the great things about Mattermost is that we can open the platform to outside people, like students from other universities.”

The NUS team has extended the platform by adding the Zoom plugin, which enables them to launch voice and video calls directly from the Mattermost interface.

Altogether, Mattermost has provided several benefits to NUS, including:

  • An improved educational experience. Mattermost enables NUS to provide a better educational experience to students. Productive and engaging learning can now take place outside of the classroom and students can develop strong relationships with peers who share their same interests.
  • Competitive advantage. Not every school is using a modern messaging solution like Mattermost. With its investment in Mattermost, NUS has demonstrated its commitment to supporting students with cutting-edge technologies.
  • Secure collaboration. Thanks to Mattermost, NUS can rest comfortably knowing that all student data passing through the platform remains confidential.
  • Higher ROI. Mattermost’s scalability, combined with its affordability, enabled NUS to enjoy a higher return on its investment.

One of the first universities to see the potential of Mattermost to support group collaboration and peer learning, NUS has lived up to its mission of providing students with the tools, knowledge and resources they need to change the world.

About Mattermost

Mattermost provides enterprise-grade collaboration solutions for the world’s leading organizations on a vibrant open source platform. Our private, hybrid and public cloud solutions offer secure, configurable, highly scalable messaging across web, mobile and PC with archiving, search, and deep integration across in-house systems.

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